Note: I made a pretty major screwup with the original article, throwing Horacio Ramirez in the wrong pile because I was reading the wrong player’s information. Thanks to 50poundhead for correcting me. The entry is edited to discuss Ramirez; I think that the major point still stands.
(Erupting from the comments and a debate between me and Robert. If you don’t know, the Braves rely heavily upon high schoolers early in the draft… and almost none of them since Chipper Jones has been worth a damn.)
The average ML career is about six seasons. So you need four major leaguers per season just to replace retirees and guys who just can’t cut it anymore. If you can’t get it through the draft you either better have a great international development strategy or a whole lot of money. And you’ll have to be either very smart or very rich to get away with going an entire decade without a productive major leaguer with your first round pick.
If you have ten picks in the first ten rounds, and ten years, you’d expect more out of the drafts 1991-2000 — the first ten years of the Scheurholz Era — than Jason Schmidt and a few marginal players. But that’s pretty much the record of the Braves in that decade. The Braves have done okay because they’ve drafted well in the late rounds and because of their international signings. Prominent players developed by the Braves signed in the 1991-2003 period:
Giles: Late pick.
Furcal: International Free Agent.
IFA Fifth round pick.
Damian Moss: IFA
Odalis Perez: IFA
John Rocker: Mid-round draft pick.
Kevin Millwood: Mid-round pick.
Kerry Ligtenberg: Independent League.
Andruw Jones: IFA
Jermaine Dye: Mid-round pick.
Jason Schmidt: Eighth round pick.
That list is most of the quality players developed by the team: most everyone who’s become a regular in Bobby Cox’s second term (Chipper, Lopez and Klesko were already in the organization), plus Dye and Schmidt who came up with the Braves but became stars for other teams. For these purposes, a high pick is anything before the 11th round, a mid-round pick from 11 to 25, a late pick 26 on. The Braves have had one high pick, out of 90-100, become a good major leaguer with a significant career. Even that’s almost a stretch; an eighth-rounder is outside the “replacement area” of four players a year. Horacio Ramirez might make it two, but you could have said the same thing about Jason Marquis two years ago. The Braves’ development record is much better with international free agents.
Stretch a little, and you could add Jason Marquis, who was a high pick. But, in summary, the Braves’ draft record in the 1990s was a miserable failure: one All-Star level player taken in the first ten rounds, and that one traded away just as he was getting started. The players drafted by the Scheurholz regime on the current roster are:
Jason Marquis: 1st round in 1996. Playing his way out of town.
Ryan Langerhans: 3rd round in 1998. A marginal player whose upside is “good fourth outfielder”.
Horacio Ramirez: 5th round. Had a solid rookie year, has great stuff, but the peripherals are troubling.
Mike Hessman: 15th round in 1996. Wes Helms, Jr.
Mark DeRosa: 7th round (out of college) in 1996. Utility infielder.
Trey Hodges: 17th round (out of college) in 2000. Might be good.
Marcus Giles: 53rd round, drafted as an organizational player, All-Star.
The Braves have managed to stay on top because of (a) their continued ability to come up with good players from the international ranks, (b) the long tenures with the team of excellent players drafted or acquired by the Cox front office (Glavine, Chipper, Smoltz, Javy; Klesko and Blauser to a lesser degree), and (c) the signing of Greg Maddux as a free agent in 1993.
Maybe Adam Wainwright will reverse the trend. He looks great so far. Maybe Marquis will find himself. I haven’t even completely given up on Belisle yet, though the Braves have. But as it stands right now, only one high pick, Horacio Ramirez, seems to have really panned out, and that only for a year. No really high (first four rounds) Braves draft pick from the Scheurholz regime has significantly contributed to the major league club.
Good post Mac. I’ll note that the Braves never get a shot at any of the 25 best amateurs in the country in any given year due to thier success which makes it a little tougher on John S. Still, the track record is a little spotty I’ll admit.
Probably shouldn’t have ventured into this Braves drafting discussion without backup since all I really was talking about was drafting high schoolers in general. I still think picking some high schoolers is a good way to go but I will admit the Braves fetish for drafting a high schooler from Georgia every year is probably not helping. Unless Jeff Francouer (sp?) works out then forget I said that.
I’ll grant that they haven’t had a top 25 pick. They’ve drafted a few players in later rounds who would have been top ten picks if they weren’t likely to go to college. They didn’t sign Hutchinson, of course; a few other pitchers are in that group.
The Cox regime did very well with high schoolers, of course. Chipper, Avery, and Klesko were high picks, the first two at the top of the first round. And the “can’t miss” college player they drafted high turned out to be Mike Kelly. To be fair to Kelly, he turned out better than any of the Braves’ first rounders from the 1991-1999 period.
Admittedly, there are some absolutely no-doubt about it top picks that the Braves can’t get by drafting out of the top 10-20. Guys like Chipper, Junior Griffey, or Alex Rodriguez were all deservedly #1 overall picks. And drafting near the bottom, those folks won’t be around.
But thats the minority even of star players. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but last season, I looked at all the All Stars of the 1990s. Even excluding the foreign players, more folks selected for the Summer (semi) Classic were taken outside the first round than in it.
Also, could you point to the BA study you are referencing. The one I remember them recently printing limited its review only to folks taken in the first round. Because so many major league regulars come from later rounds, I thought their study had a fundamental flaw. On the other hand, the classic Bill James article that so many seem to rely on was drawn from data of the 1970s drafts. Neither convince me that spending draft picks on HS pitchers is or is not a 100% good or bad strategy.
Not to nitpick, but Horacio Ramirez was a 5th round pick out of HS in 1997.
I’ve noticed that the Braves–at least in 2001 and 2002–peppered in a few college guys in the top ten rounds (Stern, Meyer, Lewis, Jurries). I still think it boils down to picking the right guy instead of worrying about the place.
The one thing I will say about drafting college guys is that the approach makes sense if you are worried about long term expenses. Less teaching time at the professional level will go into college players and you are going to know what you actually have after a couple of seasons.
With HS guys, it’s sometimes 5 or 6 years before you can make a true judgment. The difference in time needed to determine the relative ability to contribute by college players is going to save a franchise money. I don’t think Beane and company are doing anything so revolutionary except–and I’ll admit this is odd in baseball–trying to avoid throwing good money after bad.
I have noticed that the Braves are moving away from soley projection types like Lombard and Brignac in the early rounds. I think that is a good move.
Sheesh, you’re right. I’ll fix it. I put him in the wrong pile.
The data swings back and forth, but the success rates are roughly equal. More stars from high school, more regulars from college.
While I was looking for the link, I came across a run down of the Brien Taylor draft. Perhaps the most often sited example of why you don’t pick high schoolers in the first round. However if you dig deeper you find other HS picks in the first round that year were Manny Ramirez, Shawn Green, Shawn Estes, Cliff Floyd, Dmitri Young, Pokey Reese and the always popular Benji Gil. The biggest star from the college ranks was Aaron Sele otherwise it’s littered with Joe Vitiello, David McCarty types. And of course Mike Kelly. I’m not saying this draft is representative of all drafts, I just thought it was interesting that one of the most popular weapons of the pro-College camp turns out to be a pretty good year for the high school kids.
Mac, don’t sweat it on Ramirez. I know we should know better by now in this day and age, but sometimes it surprises me when I learn that this Latino player or that one is actually American. The only reason I knew Ramirez was from California was because they showed his parents eight million times during his major league debut and kept saying where they were from.
I know it shocked the heck out of me when I heard Alex Gonzalez of the Cubs interviewed during the playoffs and he spoke with no accent (which would make sense since I later discovered he was from Florida; the other Alex Gonzalez is Venezuelan, by the way). There’s nothing malicious behind it, just like there wasn’t in the surprise I felt when I learned Mike Lowell was Puerto Rican.
I knew Ramirez was from California. But sorting the players, I somehow put him in the IFA stack. And yes, I probably didn’t catch it because of his name.
God, could it be that I am about to defend JS?
Excellent thoughts all round, but maybe there is a little method in JS’s madness. Part of a GM job is horsetrading: giving away your nag for a stallion.
To some extent, JS’s obsession with high school flamethrowers ccould possibly help him stock his stable with things that look good to other GMs. You want Fred McGriff for the stretch? Then I want that “can’t-miss” prospect with the 96 mph.
Given that can’t misses miss more often than not, perhaps Los Bravos prefer proven vets and are willing to give up several “prospects”, knowing that the road to the majors is littered with corpses of can’t miss prospects. So they draft things they hope will make other Gms salivate. I don’t know: is this giving him too much credit?
Or ….you could be right — JS is a jackass.